Hurwit, an assistant U.S Attorney in Idaho since 2012, headed the prosecution of Aryan Knights white supremacist prison gang in Idaho, among an array of other cases.
The nomination of Joshua Hurwit to be Idaho’s next U.S. Attorney for Idaho cleared the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday on a voice vote, advancing favorably to the full Senate for confirmation.
“I think Josh had pretty solid bipartisan support,” said Idaho House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, who has known Hurwit since before she ran for office; the two are fellow Harvard Law grads. “He has very strong credibility with law enforcement and really across the board.”
Hurwit has been an assistant U.S Attorney in Idaho since 2012, and headed the prosecution of the Aryan Knights white supremacist prison gang in Idaho, among an array of other cases. The gang’s leader was sentenced to life in federal prison in 2021, and numerous other gang members were convicted on federal charges.
“I have never heard a bad word said of Josh Hurwit,” Rubel said. “I’m very excited. Now I just have to hope there’s some sign of life on the district court. I haven’t heard a peep.” No nominee has yet been named for Idaho’s U.S. District Court judge vacancy; Senior U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill took senior status last August.
Hurwit worked at three law firms before joining the U.S. Attorney’s office in 2012; he holds a law degree from Harvard and a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University.
“He’s incredibly diligent, incredibly fair-minded, very, very smart,” Rubel said. “He has gained the respect of all who have worked with him.”
Hurwit told the Idaho Press he had “no comment other than I’m grateful for the committee’s consideration and looking forward to the rest of the confirmation process.”
He said he’s still “doing my job … and just respecting the office in my current role. We have a great office.”
Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond School of Law who tracks federal nominations, said the confirmation is likely to be approved by the full Senate before the end of June. Hurwit’s nomination came along with two others from Pennsylvania, all approved on a single voice vote.
Two GOP committee members, Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, asked to be recorded as voting against all three nominees. Sen. Ted Cruz asked to be recorded as voting against the two Pennsylvania nominees, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, on just one of those two.
President Joe Biden nominated Hurwit to be the state’s top federal prosecutor on April 22. The current acting U.S. Attorney for Idaho is Rafael M. Gonzalez Jr.
As is customary when there’s a partisan change in administrations, former U.S. Attorney for Idaho Bart Davis stepped down Feb. 28. Davis, who was nominated to the post by President Donald Trump in 2017, is the former longtime majority leader of the Idaho Senate; he’s been publicly supportive of Hurwit’s nomination, telling the Idaho Statesman in April it’s an “excellent choice” and that he had informed Idaho’s two U.S. senators of his “strong support.”
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, didn’t attend Thursday’s meeting; his press secretary, Marissa Morrison, said he had other meetings scheduled. “The office’s role in the process, as it’s partisan to appoint the U.S. Attorney, is minimal, but the White House has kept the senator informed and apprised about the progression of the appointment,” she said.
Home-state senators are more directly involved in federal judge nominations; Idaho still has an open federal judgeship for which no nominee has been named. Because Idaho is allocated only two U.S. District Court judgeships, Winmill’s move to take senior status last August left the state with just one officially, though he still handles an active caseload. Winmill, then 68, announced his move in January of 2021, seven months in advance, in hopes that a replacement could promptly be nominated and Idaho would have more judges on the job.
“I think the need is urgent,” Rubel said. “If anything, we should have three judges at least in Idaho, given the backed-up docket and the growing nature of our state. Two really was insufficient, and now we’re pretty much down to one. … That’s really an untenable state of affairs.”
Morrison said, “The process is active and under way for the appointment of the federal judge, and we’re confident it will be resolved as soon as possible. I know they’re moving forward with that right now, but I don’t have a timeline as far as when that’s going to be done. But hopefully soon.”
In a Jan 28 interview, Crapo said, “I hope that within the next month we can get something out. Now, I’m not sure that we will publicly announce whose names we will be submitting.”
At that point, he said he and Idaho Sen. Jim Risch had not yet interviewed any candidates for the nomination, “but contact has been made with a number of people and will continue to be made.”
Idaho is one of just three states with only two U.S. district judges; it hasn’t gotten an additional judgeship in 60 years, though its caseloads have soared. Idaho’s congressional delegation has long pushed for the state to get an additional judgeship, and the nonpartisan Judicial Council of the United States has been recommending a third judgeship be added for Idaho since 2003.
By comparison, the Eastern District of Washington has a caseload similar to Idaho’s, but has six district judges.
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